LABACE Convention News

Versatile PC-24 Could Be A Winner In Latin America

 - August 9, 2013, 11:00 AM
The Pilatus PC-24 jet looks set to compete in two different market categories because of its unusual combination of range, runway performance and cabin size. (Photo: David McIntosh)

At face value, the new PC-24 jet, launched by Pilatus in May, should be well suited to Latin America’s needs and aviation infrastructure–not least because of its versatile operational performance which enables it to operate from short and unprepared runways (2,690-foot balanced field length at max takeoff weight). The Swiss company has spent a long time conferring with prospective customers and it believes it is on course to deliver the ideal follow-on product from its successful PC-12 turboprop single, when it achieves certification in early 2017.

“The PC-24 is unique,” claimed Pilatus chairman Oscar Schwenk. “It’s the only aircraft combining the versatility of a turboprop with the cabin size of a medium-size jet and the performance of a lightjet.”

Intended for Part 23 certification, the PC-24 can be flown by one pilot. Two Williams International FJ44-4A engines help the PC-24 climb to its maximum altitude of 45,000 feet in under 30 minutes and achieve a high-speed cruise of 425 ktas at 30,000 feet. Range with an 800-pound payload (four passengers) at long-range cruise speed and NBAA 100-nm IFR reserves is 1,950 nm. Maximum takeoff weight is 17,650 pounds and maximum payload is 2,500pounds.

With seating for six to eight passengers or up to 10 in commuter configuration, the PC-24’s cabin volume is 501 cu ft, “much more than bigger aircraft that cost twice as much,” Schwenk said. The cabin has a flatfloor and features a large cargo door like the PC-12, plus a pressurized baggage compartment.

Key to the PC-24’s short-field performance is a unique design feature of the jet’s two 3,435-pound-thrust Williams engines. An additional 5 percent power is available via a new automatic thrust reserve feature, according to Williams International. The turbofans also employ Williams’ Exact passive thrust vectoring nozzle technology, which uses the Coanda effect to provide a three-degree “vectored” thrust during high-power operations. The Exact feature was planned for Piper’s cancelled Altaire single-engine jet, although using a higher seven-degreevector.

An anti-ice and noise-suppressing inlet is supplied by Williams, as is an integral pre-cooler “to condition engine bleed air and reduce drag losses.” The PC-24 doesn’t need an APU because the FJ44s use Williams’s quiet power mode to provide ground power efficiently and with little noise. The engine has a 5,000-hour TBO and hot-section interval of 2,500hours.

The avionics suite consists of a Honeywell Primus Apex flight deck, which for this platform is branded as the Pilatus Advanced Cockpit Environment. The most basic version includes four 12-inch displays, Honeywell SmartView synthetic vision, Tcas II, inertial reference system, Waas LPV approaches and graphical flight planning on the movingmap.

The cockpit will also feature the integrated navigation data service (INDS) data manager for the Apple iPad. The INDS, developed by Jeppesen and Honeywell (Stand 1004), simplifies the Honeywell Apex database update process, allowing wireless updates through the iPad. An Aspen Avionics CG100P Connected Panel device is part of the INDS system; this is the first selection of Aspen’s Connected Panel for a businessjet.

Pilatus has already begun building the prototype PC-24 in a small hangar tucked into the edges of the company’s Stans, Switzerland headquarters. The first PC-24 is to roll out in the third quarter of 2014 and fly before the end of the year. European and U.S. certification is planned in early 2017, according to Schwenk, and first delivery will take place immediately aftercertification. The PC-24 will sell for $8.9 million in 2017 economic terms, according to Schwenk. Pilatus won’t officially start taking orders for the new model until next May. Financing for the program is entirely from Pilatusfunds.

Proud of his company’s efforts, Schwenk introduced the new PC-24 at the recent EBACE show in Switzerland as a “super versatile jet” or SVJ, because, he explained, it’s in an entirely new category for businessjets.

Defying Categorization

To some extent, the PC-24 defies categorization since it is unclear whether it belongs in the light or midsize classes. The new aircraft’s 17,650-pound mtow, nearly identical to that of the Embraer Phenom 300, places it firmly in the light jet category. However, its 501-cu-ft cabin volume suggests it is midsize, since it is well above the 325 cu ft of thePhenom.

In fact, the PC-24’s cabin is larger than the best-selling midsize jet–the Cessna Citation XLS+–in almost every respect; it is wider (67 inches versus 66 inches), longer (23 feet versus 18.5 feet) and more voluminous (501 cu ft versus 461 cu ft). In this matchup, the PC-24 loses only in cabin height–61 inches versus the XLS+’s 68 inches. However, the PC-24 has a flat floor while the Citation has a drop-down floor, so seated passengers won’t have any more headroom in the XLS+ compared with the PC-24.

Dubbed “Crystal Class,” the Pilatus jet’s interior evokes the qualities of Swiss crystals: beauty, uniqueness and versatility, according to the aircraft manufacturer. The six-passenger cabin mockup demonstrates the first two qualities, while its versatility comes from no fewer than seven interior options, including three executive versions (six, eight and six/eight-seat quick-change configurations); 10-passenger commuter layout; combination (forward club-seat cluster and aft cargo); cargo; and medevac. In the three executive versions, the externally serviced lavatory can be located in the fore or aft cabin, and there is a galley option aswell.

No matter what configuration is chosen, operators are sure to appreciate the jet’s large 4.1- by 4.25-foot rear cargo door as well as the ability to remove seats quickly and move the aft partition to adjust the size of baggage compartment or cabin. With the partition in the forward position, the baggage compartment volume is 90 cu ft, large enough to hold a full-size motorcycle. In the aft position, the compartment encloses 51 cu ft. The cargo door height is 4 feet 3 inches and usable width 4 feet 1 inch, large enough to accommodate standard-size cargopallets.

Pilatus has not yet selected a cabin management system (CMS) for the PC-24, saying that technology advances in these electronics are occurring so rapidly that it is still too soon to commit to a CMS for a jet that won’t be certified until 2017. But it has chosen Boulder, Colorado-based Air Comm to provide the PC-24’s environmental cooling and heatingsystem.

Innovative Solutions & Support (IS&S) was chosen to supply the PC-24’s utilities management system (UMS), which uses a multi-line Ethernet network to monitor and control PC-24 mechanical and electrical systems and the jet’s avionics. The UMS consists of four identical IS&S data concentration and processing units, each with two channels but dissimilar hardware and software. The units control and monitor “navigation, autoflight, landing gear, surface positions, fire protection, ice/rain protection, electrical loads, lighting, environmental conditions, cabin pressurization and oxygen systems,” according to IS&S, as part of the company’s UMS-100 utility management system product family. Another UMS-100 feature is the ability to act as a central maintenance computer and transmit real-time fault reporting data via satcom or other datalinks.